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Springville football coach placed on leave

by Mary Jo Monnin

Springville football coach John Sopko has been placed on administrative leave, Springville School Superintendent Dr. Paul Connelly confirmed on Friday night. The Griffins coach, who was in his fifth season, was not on the sidelines for Friday night’s Springville at Gowanda matchup game. He was replaced by Rob Valenti, Springville’s assistant coach and line coach.

"Here’s the deal. There’s no firing," said Connelly. "At this point in time all it is it is a letter that I gave him that puts him on an administrative leave from his position as head coach as we continue to investigate some allege incidents throughout the season."

Connelly said Sopko has only been relieved of his coaching duties and not from his position as a social studies teacher at the high school.

Connelly would not give specifics into what the investigation entailed, but did say a major issue was Sopko’s relationship with parents, students and opposing team players. He said he is working with a fellow superintendent on what he called a "co-investigation" from the athlete’s perspective into inappropriate things that were observed.

Connelly said his Athletic Director Joe DeMartino will spearhead the investigation.

"The whole thing comes down to unsportsmanlike conduct. We’ve got a whole bunch of people who have said some pretty bad things have happened the past few weeks. In Springville we have some parents who should shut up at games and a coaching situation I have to deal with on a personnel level."

Behavior at district sporting events was discussed at a recent school board meeting. The board was made aware of an alleged incident at the homecoming game on Sept. 27 in which Sopko made an obscene gesture toward the crowd after being heckled.

Connelly said the allegations he’s hearing from parent are too strong to walk away from. "Joe has approached the parents and they realize that have to settle down at games. On the other hand I have to do my thing just from a research perspective," said Connelly.

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